Dr. Assaf Nativ- "So Much Theoretical Archaeology, so Little Archaeological Theory"

Dr. Assaf Nativ- "So Much Theoretical Archaeology, so Little Archaeological Theory"
Activity Date: 
Monday, Nov 24, 2014

Why are archaeologists reluctant to develop theories of their own? Why, in order to provide social or cultural accounts of the past, they are willing to sacrifice the singularity of their record in favour of concepts and ideas formulated by other disciplines? The answer seems to have much to do with distrust in the archaeological record, predicated on its conceptualisation as distorted and incomplete. It is incomplete in the sense that it consists of fragments and that many features of past material reality did not find their way to the present, whether due to preservation or because they did not enter the record in the first place. The archaeological record is lacking also because there are no people, rendering it static and without discourse.
This overriding sense of absence implicates a demand for compensation – to piece the fragments together and to reinstitute Man and movement. In order to do this one must rely on ‘models’ of the complete, or at least on approaches that draw on presumably complete circumstances. These can only be found in other disciplines. Thus, for the most part, archaeology is trapped in a vicious circle. It operates under the sign of absence, which demands compensation, for the sake of which one must draw on the works of other fields of study, which in turn reinforces the notion of the archaeological record as incomplete and entrenches archaeologists’ theoretical dependency on other disciplines.
It seems, accordingly, that for archaeology to be willing to consider the development of its own theoretical base it must break this circularity of absence. Perhaps the first move must be to acknowledge that its presumed deficiencies are in fact constitutive of it; thus absence is reconceptualised as presence. Another line of thought that may promote independent archaeological thought is to shake off the sense of the archaeological record as reduced and consider it more as an abstraction or generalisation.